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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 scores year's 2nd biggest opening as summer movie season begins

Audiences are rocking out to Guardians of the Galaxy's swan song. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 kicked off the summer movie season by debuting to $114 million at the domestic box office, the second biggest opening of 2023 after another Chris Pratt film, The Super Mario Bros. Movie. That's the good news, but the bad news is this was a decline from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's $146 million debut in 2017. 

Given Vol. 3 is the conclusion of James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, there was some hope that it could have the series' biggest opening. In addition to declining from the second film, Vol. 3 had a lower domestic debut than Marvel's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($187 million), Thor: Love and Thunder ($144 million), and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($181 million). It was, however, bigger than the original Guardians of the Galaxy's $94 million opening. 

The $114 million number is certainly still solid, but the fact that it wasn't even bigger could support the theory that general audiences may be experiencing some slight Marvel fatigue, at least compared to the franchise's height. February's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania became the worst-performing Ant-Man film despite introducing a storyline crucial to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it was also one of the worst-reviewed MCU movies. Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever also both failed to outgross their predecessors, and audiences gave four of Marvel's six films before Vol. 3 a CinemaScore grade of B+ or lower. That's considered weak for the MCU. 

But Vol. 3 has an advantage compared to some recent Marvel movies in that word-of-mouth has been rather positive. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an A, the same grade as the previous two Guardians movies. This suggests it could have strong legs in the coming weeks, assuming some of the film's darker elements involving animal cruelty don't discourage repeat viewings. If not, Vol. 3's reception is at least good news for the MCU after the way Quantumania went over. But it may be even better news for DC, as Gunn, who was temporarily fired from Vol. 3 over resurfaced offensive tweets, is leaving Marvel to oversee that competing superhero franchise as co-CEO. His next film is DC's Superman: Legacy, which is scheduled for 2025.